Image credit: National University of Singapore

This animal-inspired robot can swim through even rough water.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore, including Chew Chee Meng, developed the robot with single motors replicating the flapping wings of a manta ray’s fins. Chew spoke to IEEE about the challenges of letting the robot move freely. Its propulsion also depends on the interaction between the fins and the water around it, so a lot of work still has to be done on the hydrodynamics of the movement as well as the motors and the PVC body.

Along with the two motors, the ray robot has two rear rudders that allow it to turn. It travels at about 0.7 meters per second using its passive flexibility. Its shape is designed to interact smoothly with water and incorporate several different types of movement.

Chew and his team – made up of engineering faculty members from the National University – believe that the manta ray shape could be useful for robots used in underwater mapping, ocean bed surveys, and military reconnaissance. Next, they plan to make a larger version of the robot; the current version is 35 cm (14 inches) long.

Other researchers are working on biomimetic swimming robots too: here’s one that mimics the movement of zebrafish so well that it can join natural schools of fish.

Real Time Digital Reporter